NYC Proposes to Reduce Number of Horse-Drawn Carriages in Central Park

Carriage rides in Central Park have been given a reprieve from Mayer de Blasio’s campaign promise to ban them. Under the proposed agreement, the number of horses (and licenses) would be reduced and rides would be restricted to the Park.

If you’ve always dreamed of riding through Central Park in a horse-draw carriage, there’s still time. Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to eliminate the carriage trade, three years later the deal on the table is a compromise: the number of horses will be reduced from 220 today down to 95 by 2018, carriage rides will be restricted to the park, and the horses will be housed in a new stable, to be built in Central Park by October 1, 2018. The stable will be large enough for 75 horses; 20 additional horses will be rotated in and out of service to allow them to rest.

The City Council must approve the deal, described by the mayor’s office as “an agreement in concept,” and a hearing could occur as soon as this week, officials said.

Drivers tell a slightly different story. Today 180 drivers have licenses to operate carriages in the city and they plan to continue fighting to keep as many horses and drivers employed as possible.

Personally, I’m glad to see the horses stay, even if in reduced numbers. Most of the horses I’ve seen in the park have looked well-cared for and sound; talking to the drivers I’ve heard real love for their horses in their voices. Many of the carriage drivers come from families who’ve had licenses for several generations. I’ve always wondered what the protesters thought would happen to the horses if carriages were banned. While images of green fields and retirement floated over their heads like speech bubbles, my own prediction was darker: New Holland sales and one way tickets to Canada. Hopefully, with a more gradual decline, this will allow more horses the chances to find homes (although I think animal rights activists still haven’t thought through the implications of taking the horses off the streets of NY). My guess is that ultimately, the numbers of horses/licenses will be higher than the 95 planned.

Update: According to some of the carriage drivers, the real issue driving the proposed downsizing of the industry and relocation of the stables has little to do with protecting the horses — and everything to do with real estate. The current stables are located on Manhattan’s West Side where development of the Hudson Yards has significantly raised the value of those buildings. However, the owners of the Carriage Houses say they are not interested in selling.

What do you think?

To blanket, or not to blanket. That is the question!

I love this chart from Jody Lynn Warner. Trot over the Chronicle of the Horse to see her article, The Blanket Clause.
I love this chart from Jody Lynn Warner. Trot over the Chronicle of the Horse to see her article, The Blanket Clause, by clicking on the image.

Most years by the beginning of January, the horses have been wearing blankets pretty consistently. This year, they’ve only warn blankets two nights, when the temperatures dipped into the single digits. Otherwise, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather coupled with the fact that the new barn has less blanket storage and it’s harder to blanket them since they eat out in the pasture.

Guess what? They’ve survived just fine.

For a variety of reasons I never got around to clipping them this year. I typically do a trace clip to keep them from overheating, and then I feel obligated to cover them up and keep them warm. This year both Freedom and Zelda have good thick coats and they don’t look at all distressed, even when it’s been in the fifteen degree range.

I will continue to blanket when it’s in the single digits — or when it’s wet as well as cold. And I’ll keep an eye on Freedom’s weight. Keeping a blanket on him is a good way to conserve calories. But it is kind of nice not to have to deal with the constant blanket changes.

Do you blanket? If so, how cold does it get before you start?


The joys of owning a cribber

Here's a photo of Freedom cribbing back in 2009.
Here’s a photo of Freedom cribbing back in 2009.

Cribbing is one of those stable vices that can easily make your horse equis non grata at boarding facilities. In fact, many boarding barns won’t accept cribbers at all. Cribbing and wood chewing can be destructive (although they are different) and

Split rail fencin
Old style fencing like this was used to measure the area of fields.

there’s a concern, mostly unfounded, that the vice will spread like a virus through a barn (Freedom has been with the same turnout buddies for close to a decade without any of them picking up the habit).

At our old barn, Freedom’s cribbing wasn’t a huge deal. He wears a cribbing collar which reduces his cribbing significantly. When he did crib, his preference was to grab the top of a post and pull on it. The posts would start to lean and then I, or the person who helped maintain the property, would reset the post. He never has colicked from it and his teeth are still in decent shape.

At the new barn, his cribbing is more problematic. The split rail fencing was used a lot in Colonial New England — it’s a very versatile fence style that can be built without nails or hardware, is easy to set up or move, and easy to repair. In one style of the split rail fence, where the fence

Split rail fencing
The fencing where Freedom lives looks like this — the rails slot into holes in the posts.

zigs and zags between two posts, each rail was generally 16.5 feet or one “rod”. This allowed landowners to calculate the area of a field by counting the zigs and zags along the side and one end.

But it’s not really meant to withstand cribbing. While Zelda has learned to slide the rails out of the posts, Freedom has discovered that shaking the fence, by grabbing a post to crib on it, can cause the rails to tumble down. Not ideal when the purpose of the fence is to keep the horses in! In some places I’ve put electric tape up using offsets to protect the poles, but that does little to protect the posts.

Offset fencing
Willow looks skeptically at the new offset fence. She likes to tease Dandy (the chestnut) and is a bit PO’d that she can’t get closer.

So, when Freedom managed to pull down some fencing last week, I decided to build an internal electric fence to keep him away from the wood altogether. Using short step in poles and some old tape (if this works, I will get some new tape), I built a fence within the fence. And then ran enough current down it to discourage any horses from testing the line.

So what about his cribbing? The Barn Owners were kind enough to create a “cribbing station” for him. He now has his own post that is sunk into the ground that’s not attached to anything. I’m hoping that by eliminating the “bad options” we can direct him toward a solution that will allow him to crib a little, but without doing any damage. I will let you know how it works!

The Instigator

Curly appears to be the instigator. She's the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!
Curly appears to be the instigator. She’s the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!

Today I got to the barn to find that the horses were playing musical pastures again. Curly was in with Freedom and Willow and Zelda was on the other side of the fence looking annoyed.

It turns out that Curly is a limbo dancer. Someone had pulled down two rails of fencing and she had scooted her way under the electric tape. She looks so innocent, but I am beginning to suspect that she is the escape artist who likes to explore. “What

Limbo horse
Someone, who shall remain nameless, managed to remove the top two rails of the fencing. Then Curly slipped under the tape. Obviously, Freedom and Willow had more food. She’s pretty limber if she can duck under that tape.

me?” She says. “The grass was greener on that side of the fence.”

The horses are fine

Zelda and Curly
Zelda and Curly back where they belong and looking tired.

It’s never a good sign when you wake up to an email from your Barn Owner with “The Horses are Fine” as the message heading. It means your horses have survived, but that they did their best to tempt fate.

This morning, all the horses were involved in a grand adventure, but Zelda was the one who really pushed the envelope.

It started around 5:30 a.m. when the sound of hoof beats — galloping hoof beats — woke the Barn Owners. They came down to the field to find that the horses were playing musical pastures. The fence that separates Curly and Zelda from Freedom and Willow had come down. They had switched sides and Freedom was now rocketing at warp speed around the pasture. When he hits fifth gear, he really flies.

In the meantime, Zelda and Curly continued their pasture hopping and managed to infiltrate the BO’s pasture to play with their horses. Zelda was delighted to have a bigger group to herd and took delight in tormenting the two geldings (who had thought it would be fun to have the girls over but soon realized their mistake).

The broken fence
Zelda took out the top rail and the post on the far left.

The BOs got Curly back on the right side of the fence and then turned to get Zelda. But Zelda didn’t want to wait. She wanted to be with Curly. Right now. Her thought process on how to fix this problem was amazing and a bit scary. I knew she was smart, but still . . . First she walked up to the fence and grabbed the top rail with her teeth. Apparently, she has figured out that she can slide the rail out of some of the sections of the fence. This one was nailed in. She pawed in frustration, backed up and ran at the fence, which is about 4′ tall.

The first time, she pulled up short. Yes, that was only the first time. Not satisfied with her approach, she turned and trotted down to the far end of the field to give herself more momentum. She then turned, galloped, and launched herself at the fence. She almost cleared it. But not quite. Luckily, the fence came down and the only thing broken were the rails.

By the time I got there, the horses were no longer lathered. They were still amped up (the wind was very strong today) and they were enjoying their “new” paddocks. After feeding them, I checked them all and, much to my relief, everyone was fine.

I put them back where they belonged and spent the next couple of hours adding electric tape to the fence in between the paddocks. If Zelda has figured out how to disassemble the fence, she needs a good deterrent — such as electrical current. I also had a long talk with her about not jumping the fences again. But I could tell that she wasn’t listening. She was much more interested in whether the fencing supplies I’d brought with me were edible.

I’d like to think she learned her lesson but I’m afraid that the only thing she learned was either to jump higher or that she’s big enough to destroy most fences.

Here’s to an uneventful Sunday.

Writers Wanted

Riding Writers Wanted! Share what you’ve learned with your fellow equestrians and submit your “How to” article here!

Are you an equestrian with the burning urge to share some of the things you’ve learned over the years? Are you looking for an outlet to write about all things horses? I’d like to talk to you!

No, not for Equine Ink. This is more of my personal space. But I’ve started a new website/blog called EquestrianHow2 — Operating Instructions for Your Horse. The idea came to me when I was searching for information for an Equine Ink article. There was SO much information on the Internet, but not all in one place and not all good (there’s a lot of mis-information out there, too).

Let’s face it, our horses teach us something almost every day! So let’s share it. I’m not in a position to pay for articles but you will earn many karma carrots and the satisfaction of knowing you are helping others.

Editorial Guidelines:

  • All articles must explain “How to” do something that is related to horses or riding.
  • All content must be original (your own) and not published elsewhere (unless it’s your own blog).
  • Articles should be educational rather than promotional.
  • Please include at least ONE visual (photograph or illustration) to use as the featured image. The more pictures the better! Video is great, too.
  • Send your content or ideas to:

I look forward to hearing from you! Together I’m sure we can put together a great site.



Horses and sheep and their amazing eye movements

UC Berkeley and Durham University optometry scientists have discovered the reasons for the horizontal pupil shape of some animals’ eyes — after analyzing  214 species of land animals, they have concluded that species with vertical pupils are more likely to be ambush predators that are active both day and night. Animals with horizontally elongated pupils are likely to be plant-eating prey species with eyes on the sides of their heads. And animals with circular pupils are either active foragers or animals that chase down their prey.

Researchers found that the horizontal pupils of grazing animals like horses, expanded the effective field of view. When stretched horizontally, the pupils are aligned with the ground, getting more light in from the front, back and sides. The orientation also helps limit the amount of dazzling light from the sun above so the animal can see the ground better.

When horses, sheep and other grazing prey animals put their head down to eat, their eyes rotated to maintain the pupils’ horizontal alignment with the ground.

Read more about the study here.